During Christmas Eve 1945, a tragic event would unleash one of the most mysterious cases in the entire history of USA. A call, a raging fire and the disappearance of five brothers would make the Sodder family become part of the large number of unresolved files.
The beginning of the tragedy
Born in 1895 in Tula, in the north of the Italian island of Sardinia, Giorgio Sodu He emigrated with his brother to the USA with only 13 years. Already on North American soil changed his last name to Soddergot a job and forged a strong bond within the community where he lived.
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Sodder He started working as a driver. With the experience acquired behind the wheel, he managed to get another similar one, but in the field of merchandise transport. First of all he carried construction materials in the state of Pennsylvania and then he would move coal, activity that in those years was controlled by the mafia.
On one of those trips aboard his truck, Sodder He entered a store and met the owner’s daughter: Jennie Cipriani. As the, the young woman had come to the United States with her family when she was just a child.
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Cipriani and Sodder fell in love and settled in a two-story house on the outskirts of Fayetteville, an Italian-American colony in the state of West Virginia. There, the marriage had a total of 10 children.
The family quickly earned a place in the hearts of the neighbors for the help they provided. But far from the kindness they offered, the sodder family suffered a horrible tragedy on the first post-war Christmas Eve.
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At dawn, the couple and four of their children slept on the ground floor of the house of Fayetteville. Above were the other five. Only Joseph, the second of them, was missing, because he had had to do military service. In the middle of the night a call interrupted the stillness of the house.
Jennie answered the phone, but it was a wrong call. The woman noticed something out of place: the house lights were on Y the front door was left ajar. He closed it, turned everything off, and went back to bed.
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after a few hours a sharp blow on top of the house and a strong smell of smoke woke them up. When they left the room, they saw hell itself inside their home: the flames were taking over everything, consuming the wood, especially the the staircase that led to the upper floor where five brothers rested.
With desperate cries the Sodders tried to wake up the children upstairsnevertheless, there was no answer. This fact made them, at first, think that the children had already escaped from the house. The couple and their four children who were sleeping on the ground floor went out and asked their neighbors for help.
George tried to call the fire department, but the phone lines were down. From outside the house he wanted to access the second floor by means of a ladder that he had, but this had disappeared. In one last attempt, he tried to move the truck closer to the back of the car so the children could jump out, but he couldn’t start it either.
The oldest daughter of the Sodder family, Mary Ann (19) was the one who ran into the street and managed to get one of her neighbors to move to the town and ask the fire department for help. Finally, help from the rescuers arrived around dawn, but by then, everything was ashes.
Resigned, the Sodder family thought that their children maurice antonio (14), Martha Lee (12), louis erico (10), Jennie Irene (8) and betty dolly (5) had been charred to death. However, after the removal of the debris no human remains were found. And from that moment began endless assumptions and a wait for justice that would never come.
Tracks that lead nowhere
One week after the fire that consumed the house of the Sodder, the police decided to leave the five children who slept on the top floor for dead. The authorities even issued the respective death certificates. But far from the formality that the documents print, Jennie and George began to investigate what had happened to their children.
The children were presumed dead, the local authorities closed the case. Not happy with this decision, the Sodders requested that the FBI intervene in the case, a possibility that they were denied because it was a local event that, a prioriIt had no national interest. Given the refusal, the couple decided to hire private investigators to try to shed light on the matter.
From the beginning, Jennie Sodder suspected that her children had not died in the fire since it was not possible that, in the event that they had burned to death, no remains of the five bodies would be found. The woman herself consulted with a morgue specialist who assured her that for the human remains to disintegrate they would have to have been above 2,000 degrees Celsius for at least two hoursa temperature that could not have been generated even at the worst moment of the fire.
Finding no answers, the Sodders tied up loose ends and recalled a run-in that George, a staunch critic of Benito Mussolini’s ideas, had staged days before the fire. A producer had offered her insurance for his home, and Sodder turned it down. Angry, the man predicted that he would experience a catastrophe: “Your house will go up in smoke and your children will be destroyed, and you will pay for your dirty views on Mussolini.”
In 1949, almost four years after the fire, the Sodders ordered a private investigation into the field. Excavations were made and ancient coins, a burned dictionary and bones were found that, after being analyzed at the Smithsonian Institution, it was determined that they belonged to the same person between 16 or 17 years of age. But according to the report said bones had not been exposed to fire.
Other theories indicate that the Italian mafia may have been behind the disappearance of the children. As a coal dealer, Sodder had amassed much of the market and a way to decimate that power. it could have been the kidnapping of five of his children.
Three versions of the whereabouts of the children
A few days after the tragedy, some witnesses claimed to have seen the children at the moment the fire broke out. But there was no correlation between one testimony and the other. While a neighbor of Fayetteville He assured that he saw the five brothers inside a car the morning of the fire, a waitress from a bar in a neighboring town said that he had seen them with a man and a woman.
A week later, there was another person who testified to seeing the Sodder brothers. This time the testimony was from a woman who worked at a hotel in Charleston, South Carolina, 700 kilometers from the site of the fire. She assured that the five children had stayed there along with two men and two women. The woman remarked that the adults did not allow the children to communicate with her and that they acted strangely, something that supported the theory of a kidnapping by a child trafficking network.
Similarities, a photograph and an unsolved mystery
After seeing a photo of a girl similar to one of his daughters in a youth newspaper, George Sodder traveled to New York. He asked the editors of the newspaper if they could provide him with information about the girl, but they refused to do so because she was a minor.
They also received a version indicating that their children were in Florida. However, Sodder couldn’t find them in that state either.
In 1968, the Sodders receive a letter with a photograph of a man in his late 30s. On the upper margin of the photo you could read: “Louis Sodder, I love brother Frankie. Little boys. W90-132″. The letter had been postmarked in Kentucky and George sent a detective to investigate since Jennie was pretty sure it was from her son. Nevertheless, studies and technology at the time failed to identify the man in the photo.
Months after receiving the photograph of the young man who looked like Louis, George Sodder died at the age of 74. His wife continued to search for her children exhaustively until her death in 1989. Despite the efforts of these parents, the juicy rewards offered, they never found out what happened to the five brothers.
I am Jack Morton and I work in 24 News Recorder. I mostly cover world news and I have also authored 24 news recorder. I find this work highly interesting and it allows me to keep up with current events happening around the world.